I heard a general one time start a conference with the admonition to consider all the presentations as if you had a blank slate. I thought that was pretty powerful. It moved people out of their entrneched positions and got them to stop thinking about legacy systems and so on. More recently, I saw another note talking about drawing inspiration from a blank slate and I started thinking about setting up a training system rom scratch in a organization.
So let's say you are in an org of a couple hundred people, the org is a couple years old, its grown to the point where you need to get a little bit more structured in terms of systems - not formal from a content perspective but maybe move away from the ad hoc nature of systems that people have been using until now. What's your first move? Buy an LMS? Hire someone to build curriculum? Start listing content to be produced and deciding on the media? I don't think so.
I think blank slates are cool...like white pages of paper, their emptiness is full of potential. You never really get one though do you? Not completly anyway so let's think about our blank slate in this case from the standpoint of systems. We have no legacy systems. No existing LMS. No authoring tool pumping out content in some weird format. What do we have though? We have employees - folks that are doing their jobs. Folks that are already learning. So let's start there.
If you wanted to build cars and you found a factory of people already doing half of what you wanted, would you just chuck all that to install your own deal? You might and if that is you then I hope you enjoy your time on the trash heap of industry because that's a stupid and wasteful thing to do. So let's not start installing training systems without first finding out if we can just leverage what people are already doing to learn. Yes! That's right! Much like Christmas came for the Who's without box or bows, learning comes without storyboards and job aids. Now we're back to our original question - how do you start?
I think if you start from a place that says "people are already learning - I need to help that" - then that is a very different place than "we need to create content and build courses." The system that suggests to me as the foundational piece is one that allows discovery, exploration and sharing. You want people in your organization to be able to discover each other's talents and strengths - and you want them to be able to discover relevant content and material.
You want them, your employees that are already learning, to explore new ways of working together (anyone else hear strains of Star Trek whenever you use the phrase 'to explore'?), and new ways of forming teams and so on.
Finally, you want them to be able to share - to share their knowledge, their experiences, their capabilities, their encyclopedic recall of the bast places to eat near the office. Oh, yeah and you want to make all that happen with very little friction, integrated with other systems and include it in the workflow.
That sounds awfully social doesn't it? Now that we have that stood up, now we can start using that system to really identify holes in the knowledge base, communities that need management, and relationships and lines of communication that need to become visible (hello email!). Then we can add in as appropriate, some more formal content, some analytics, etc. Those things should be capabilities of the system but they are not the foundation of the system so don't favor them over other systems - expand on the pre-existing learning that is going on right now inside your organization, use a social layer to allow your own employees increase their performance.
Now, look at your slate.